The delegation from Lund arrived in Cape Town last weekend and first visited Robben Island. This felt like a good introduction to our visit to the country. South Africa is interesting for Swedes; the South Africans have no forgotten the support Sweden gave to the ANC during the Apartheid era.
The South African Government is aiming to substantially increase the proportion of the population with higher education, especially the number who hold a PhD. At present, South Africa produces 1 300 doctoral students each year, and the Government has set a goal of 6 000 a year by 2020. On average, only 34% of the universities’ teaching staff have a PhD. By 2030, the goal is for 70% of them to have a PhD. This is of course a challenge for the country, and collaboration with universities in other countries on supervision and student exchange will be an important strategy.
Regarding Lund University’s collaborations with Africa in the form of co-publications, SA really stands out. Most publications have been with the University of Stellenbosch, followed by Cape Town and Pretoria. There are no doubt many fields in which our researchers collaborate, but we can particularly mention biotechnology, biology, water resources, road safety, packaging logistics, economic history, geology, astronomy, and sustainable development. There are also student and staff mobility agreements.
We visited three universities in Cape Town: University of Stellenbosch, University of Cape Town and University of the Western Cape. In order to fit in all three, we split into two groups, one led by Nils Danielsen, the other by me. LUS President Clara Lundblad has kept a photo diary of her experiences. You can view it here and here (in PDF format).
At the University of Stellenbosch, the Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation, Prof. Eugene Cloete, and I signed a student exchange agreement. We already have a memorandum of understanding (see photo). Stellenbosch has been associated with Afrikaans and white students, and is working hard to fulfil Parliament’s requirements to facilitate study for underprivileged groups in society, i.e. black students. The management group whom we met were very interested. Our delegation was given a presentation of the University’s work on internationalisation, a tour of their attractive campus, with bougainvillea and jacaranda in full bloom. Students have the option of accommodation in fully catered halls of residence, with surprisingly low rent.
The members of the delegation met their respective counterparts and had in-depth discussions on possibilities of collaboration. They received an insight into life at the University.
Johannes Stripple from the Department of Political Science and Barbara Törnqvist-Pleva from the Centre for European Studies described their visit to Stellenbosch as follows:
Pierre du Toit’s office at the Department of Political Science is at the top of the building, with a fantastic view. Beautiful old buildings spread out in a well-ordered grid pattern. Beyond the campus boundary, the vineyards and high Alp-like mountains take over. Stellenbosch lies calm and idyllic in a nest of greenery. We walked to the meeting room, which had a view in the opposite direction. Pierre pointed out the shanty town that grows uncontrollably up the slopes. The shanty town, which borders on the village of Stellenbosch, serves as an illustration of a complex, rapidly changing South Africa. We discussed the role that research and education can play in better managing the challenges facing the country.
Earlier in the day, Professor Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector of Stellenbosch, talked about how important it was for Stellenbosch to drive developments in society, and to recruit students from ’non-academic’ backgrounds. The nation of South Africa cannot afford to miss out on a generation of clever young people. Apartheid defined the universities. Stellenbosch, traditionally the university of white Afrikaans speakers, was opened up to black students in 1980 (if they couldn’t find an equivalent course at ‘their’ university) and, according to the Vice-Rector, the goal is for half of the students to be ‘coloured’ by the year 2018.
In South Africa, every university has to deal with its relationship to its modern political history. At the University of the Western Cape, established in 1960 as a university for “coloured people only”, the progressive atmosphere, and pride, is clearer – formed by decades of creative struggle against oppression and discrimination. When we visited Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela and other members of the ANC were incarcerated for many years between 1960 and 1990, their education ideal was clearly presented. They owned nothing, not even books or newspapers, yet it was important for them to teach one another. Education was an element in the struggle and a strategy for mobilisation and self-respect.
Johannes also visited the Stellenbosch Sustainability Institute and described it as follows:
The Sustainability Institute is 15 km outside Stellenbosch. The institute was set up by Professor Mark Zwilling and his wife Eve. In a short time, the institute has been established as one of South Africa’s most innovative and interesting environments. The institute not only carries out research and education, but also works practically on sustainability issues in various ways. The institute is located in an “eco-village” with around 40 houses, a school, a nursery and an area for growing crops. They are experimenting with environmentally friendly and energy-efficient buildings, for example a house that is entirely self-sufficient year round using solar energy.
We studied their smart water and sewage systems, their biogas production for household use, which converts household waste to biogas and generates enough energy to power the cookers. The sustainable and energy-efficient solutions that they develop are all intended to be implementable. The Sustainability Institute is one of a kind. I haven’t seen such a combination of an academic and practical environment before. It is an innovative institute that takes its starting point in its local situation, and that combines theory and practical experimentation to create new conditions for research, education and social engagement.
The University of Cape Town is an institution with which we don’t yet have any agreements, but there are nonetheless collaborations. We met Danie Visser, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, and deans and others who in one way or another have contact with Lund University. Cape Town is important for our Faculty of Medicine in particular. Ecology, astronomy, biochemistry, neurosurgery and archaeology are some of the fields in which there is already collaboration and where we have had co-publications. Cape Town is interested in collaborating with Lund University and we are planning further discussions.
University of the Western Cape
This university was visited by Nils Danielsen with one half of the delegation. Nils described it as follows:
This university was established for ‘coloured’ students. The aim was to train the lower middle-class as nurses and social workers. The university has a very strong connection to the Apartheid movement and the opposition struggle. Desmond Tutu has been vice-chancellor and a number of members of management were recruited to government posts when South Africa became democratic.
My general impression is that the management, on all levels, are very clear on what they want and what direction the university should take. They have made an impressive journey from being a teaching university, and subsequently a bankrupt teaching university, to being among the best 30% in South Africa and with strong finances. They are very strong in the field of physics, among others. The entire university is characterised by a clear sense of pride – they are particularly proud of their history – and there is a nice campus feeling. The university works strategically on the recruitment of individuals from underprivileged areas, especially the townships. They have programmes to support students in their education and financially. Their tuition fees are among the lowest in South Africa.
LU already has some collaboration through Erasmus Mundus (Eurosa, 3 MSc, 2 PhD, 1 staff), research collaborations in theology, and a visiting professor (Catherina Schenk) who will be coming to the School of Social Work in the spring.
LU can learn from UWC’s experience of working on widening participation, and that is one reason for LU to encourage our teaching staff to visit.
In conjunction with an alumni event we were holding at the Embassy in Pretoria, we took the opportunity to visit the University of Pretoria. We don’t yet have any agreements with them, but there are some research collaborations, so it was interesting to visit.
Our visit there was fairly short and we had the opportunity to hear about the university’s strategic areas. There is already contact between the faculties of law in Lund and Pretoria. Katarina Olsson, an expert on foundations, had discussions with her counterpart in Pretoria. There is also collaboration within the field of archaeology.Part of the delegation with some of our new South African friends in Pretoria. Photo: Anna Johansson
Alumni event at the Swedish Embassy Residence in Pretoria.
We had an initial meeting at the Swedish Embassy at which chargé d’affaires Karin Johansson went through the political situation in southern Africa and South Africa’s current political situation in relation to research and education. After the meeting at the Swedish Embassy in Pretoria, we had the privilege of holding an alumni event at the residence. Ahead of the event, we had invited all those registered in the alumni database and others through personal contacts and networks. A total of 40 people attended the event.
Margareta Nordstrand described the event as follows:
The evening opened with a welcome by the chargé d’affaires, Karin Johansson, who talked about the activities that the Swedish Embassy has in RSA and the importance of this type of network for the relationship between the two countries. Lars Ljungälv, Vice-Chair of the University Board, then expressed his support for more extensive collaboration between Sweden and Africa, and encouraged everyone to enjoy rewarding and instructive conversations during the evening.
Eva Wiberg welcomed everyone on behalf of Lund University and talked about the delegation trip and LU’s plans for a future Africa strategy. She also talked about developments at Lund University and underlined the importance of integration and cross-boundary collaboration, with Africa as a particular strategic region. Margareta Nordstrand then spoke about LU’s alumni activities and encouraged all those who had not yet registered to do so.
As the conclusion to the programme, Amelia Mofokeng and Rapuleng Job Matsaneng gave a lively and captivating talk on the commissioned education programme in Child Rights that they had taken through Lund University and what it meant for them personal and, most importantly, for the pupils in the school where Amelia is headteacher. She had won the ‘Headteacher of the Year Award’ and linked it directly to her training. Both were very pleased and grateful to have had the opportunity.
The evening concluded with canapés and networking, where many interesting and valuable contacts were established.
University of Johannesburg
The visit to the University of Johannesburg was very interesting. We were the first U21 university to visit since the university was voted into the U21 network. Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduate Studies, Prof. Tshilidzi Marwala, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation, Prof. Tinyiko Maluleke, as well as deans, heads of department and others were there to meet our delegation. Prof. Marwala already has collaborations with Lund University and will visit us next year along with other staff. Points of discussion included the need to reinforce research studies, student representation, strategic management issues, and internationalisation. It was clear that this university is on its way to becoming an internationally recognised university. Security issues are high on the agenda.
The day after the visit, I received a kind email from Professor Marwala with greetings from the Vice-Chancellor Ihron Rensburg. They observed that we were the first university from the U21 network to visit them and congratulate them on joining.